It’s impossible not to look at Javier Bardem. It could be a photo of him on a nightstand, and I’d stare at that spot even if Tom Cruise were having thumping mansex with Richard Gere on the bed. Maybe it’s Bardem’s over-broken nose, or his homo habilis sloping forehead, or his Iberian ability to smolder with barely checked emotion. Bardem is watchable in any language, in any condition, even when he’s in otherwise run-of-the-mill efforts such as Mondays in the Sun.
Mondays, which takes place in Spain, stars a thick-bodied Bardem as a beat (as in, beaten down) poet-philosopher named Santa who lost his job at the local shipyard a few years ago and has been drinking on the dole, dispensing not-so-saintly wisdom, and working on a mean case of bitterness at a world that allows good Spanish jobs to be hijacked to Korea, where things can be built cheaply. He and his best buddies from the shipyard drink to days gone by in the shabby bar of a mate who took a buyout years earlier and gave the real world a shot.
Santa’s friend Jose (Luis Tosar) feels humiliated as he makes no effort to find work and his wife pulls in tiny wages at a tuna cannery. Corpse-like Amador (Celso Bugallo) is drinking his severance (and his life) away. Lino (Jose Angel Egido) is at least trying to get a job, but he’s too old for the want ads he answers. These men are the unwanted, a segment of societal unmentionables: middle-aged, uneducated, unmotivated. Santa has the best chance for escape — he is witty and intelligent, and it shows in every drunken pronouncement — but he is far too proud to let The Man win and prefers to spend his time railing against all that is morally offensive.
Desperation is the same in any language, and Mondays in the Sun has a very American self-righteousness and hardheadedness (or maybe that’s just Santa, and not the movie at large) that nearly obliterates anything Spanish about it. These men could be hanging out in any depressed town in the United States, cursing things out of their control and refusing to move on with their lives, dreaming of days when things were better, or at least tolerable. (They’d fit right in on HBO’s excellent drama “The Wire,” in which a teetering Baltimore shipyard figures largely in this season’s main storyline.) Bardem’s searing indignation and bearded, balding sexiness is all that sets Mondays in the Sun apart from similar movies.
Showing exclusively, through Thursday, at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W. of Telegraph). Call 248-263-2111.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.